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Small Businesses

Volume 464: debated on Thursday 11 October 2007

8. When he next expects to meet representatives of the small firms sector to discuss employment regulations. (156875)

The Department is in regular contact with the small firms sector. The sector is represented on the employment law simplification practitioner panel, which will meet my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 31 October. The Department's ministerial challenge panel, chaired by the Minister with responsibility for better regulation, which critically appraises the Department's regulatory and policy proposals, also has representation from the Federation of Small Businesses and the Small Business Forum.

I am pleased to hear that, but does the Minister agree that the two biggest challenges facing small businesses are employment regulations and tax? Has he had a chance to look at yesterday's remarks by Lord Bilimoria, the founder of Cobra Beer and a key Labour supporter? He said that investment in small businesses and entrepreneurship has been penalised by the proposed 80 per cent. increase in capital gains tax, and that it sends all the wrong signals for Government support for small firms. What representations will the Minister make to the Chancellor about that anti-business measure?

My advice to the Chancellor would be not to return to the days when the hon. Gentleman’s party was in power and the tax was 40 per cent. Britain is still one of the best countries in the world in which to do business. That is backed up by the World Bank, and it is shown by our economic record over the past 10 years. I remind him that there are 500,000 more businesses in existence now than when his party was in power.

What consideration has been given to the risk management element with regard to removing regulations for small businesses: for example, no smoking signs that are required in one’s own home when it is used for business purposes, and even in one’s own car when it is used for business purposes?

The hon. Lady makes the good point that we must always be alive to making regulations as simple as possible. I remind her that the Government have a very active programme on that. That is why we set a target to reduce administration burdens on business by 25 per cent. by 2010. It is why, around a year ago, a list was published which set out 500 simplification measures, saving businesses some £2 billion in administrative burdens costs. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Competitiveness said, those simplification plans will be revisited shortly so that even more progress can be made on that agenda.

Could the Minister now answer the question that the Minister for Competitiveness failed to answer and tell the House how many regulations have been withdrawn in the past 12 months?

I have just given the hon. Gentleman some numbers. We published last December a list of 500 measures that would reduce admin burdens by some £2 billion for business as part of meeting the target to reduce admin burdens by 25 per cent. by 2010.